Why Can’t I Win at The Moth Every Time?

From hero to zero and I’m not sure why

Cindy Shore Smith
Inspired Writer
Published in
4 min readMay 2, 2022


It’s tough to analyze why a piece of writing is successful or not. Oral storytelling is even harder to pin down because you can’t watch yourself.

There are similarities. Audience response offers clues — after you put yourself out there first. That’s why impartial feedback in the early stages — often hard to come by — is so valuable.

At the end of the day, we storytellers — print and oral — do our best and sometimes scratch our heads over the results. Art is like that.

That’s me in the spotlight

Last winter I got into live storytelling. I performed at small open mic events, listened to The Moth Radio Hour, and dreamed of telling a story in front of a large audience.

Last December, for my 64th birthday, I told one of my favorite stories and won a Moth Story Slam. It was a magical experience.

When I learned the theme for February would be Love Hurts, I worked on a story I had written a year before. I rehearsed it to death, just as I had the previous story, and thought I had a good chance of doing well with it.

I slept poorly the nights leading up to the second Story Slam, even for a chronic insomniac like me. Going without rest changes the world. Everything is hard and nothing is fun.

But I was committed to telling this story and hoped I would be able to pull it off, even though fatigue might impact the experience.

The tea leaves looked good

I don’t consider myself a superstitious person but I made this story 530 words, just as the first one had been. Two friends contacted me that morning to say they enjoyed my first performance, which I considered a good omen.

Then, while I was out for my daily hike, two fellows working on the trail said, “Hey! It’s the Ding Dong Lady,” referring to the piece I told onstage in December.

At The Moth, performers’ names are pulled one by one from a bag so it’s a stressful wait. In December I was called 5th, which I considered perfect — before intermission but not first. When, in February, I was again the 5th storyteller it felt…



Cindy Shore Smith
Inspired Writer

Teacher, reader, writer, hiker, wife and mom. Blog can be found at boomersolutionsblog.com